Truong Giang

For generations, Vietnamese cooks have prepared meals that are nutritious, delicious and eye-catching

For older folk in Hanoi, the cooking genius of Pham Anh Tuyet of Ma May Street is no secret. Her culinary wisdom encompasses the profound gastronomic essence of Vietnam’s capital city. Ms. Tuyet has appeared on many TV shows to discuss her famous recipes. Food trays prepared by Ms. Tuyet are considered the benchmark for elite families in Hanoi, particularly during the Vietnamese New Year holidays. Ms. Tuyet’s classic dishes such as boiled chicken, pork terrine, cinnamon terrine, bamboo shoot soup, steamed chicken with lotus seeds and kohlrabi salad leave a lasting impression on foodies.

These recipes date back hundreds of years and are both delicious and meticulously prepared and presented. Looking at a bowl of pork skin soup, fine art lovers may imagine a bright landscape painting while students of Asian philosophy will notice that their bowl represents the ideals of Yin and Yang and the Five Elements. Simple as it is boiled chicken requires the cook to neatly chop the meat and keep the skin lustrous, then grate green lime leaves and red chili into a bowl of lime salt. A New Year’s meal would be not the same without green square rice cakes, bright red sticky rice with gac fruit and lush yellow cinnamon terrine.

Adept Vietnamese cooks change their menus according to the seasons. Flowers carved out of tomatoes, carrots and chili are used to add colour. Skilful mothers teach their daughters some basic food preparation lessons, with lettuce leaves used as a background for fish and carrots or kohlrabi trimmed into ornaments in the sauce served with fried spring rolls.

Nowadays, in luxury restaurants, adept chefs promote new methods of food decoration. With the same fried spring rolls, mixed fried rice, roasted doves or fried prawns with butter and garlic, they add cooked green baby rice or flowers to create visual feasts.

If we travel southward to Hue, the former capital of the Nguyen dynasty, careful housewives have inherited unique court recipes and presentation skills. Elaborate trimming skills, harmonious presentation of foods of different colours and tastes, and the use of numerous plates, bowls, jars, baskets and cups heighten diners’ surprise and pleasure. Traveling further southward, a long history of territorial expansion results in food that is closer to nature. Influenced by the cuisines of the Khmer, the Chams and the Chinese, southern Vietnamese food is diverse, colourful and bursting with fresh local produce.

Visitors can easily discover Vietnamese cuisine in local restaurants and eateries. Vietnam Airlines’ inflight meals are another way to experience Vietnamese cuisine. The catering company that serves Vietnam Airlines also serves over 30 carriers from throughout the world. Vietnam Airlines has developed a menu of inflight meals that showcase the country’s wonderful cuisine and international favourites, are highly nutritious and full of quality ingredients. Neat and eye catching inflight meals prepared at Noi Bai and Tan Son Nhat Airports have won the hearts of countless visitors. The C- class menus are especially memorable. From starters to main courses and desserts, Vietnam Airlines’ chefs present vibrant and colourful dishes. Whether they are Western, Halal or Asian, Vietnam Airlines’ meals convey the subtlety and elegance of Vietnamese culture.